Just over a month after she was handed to the SA Navy (SAN), the first of three multi-mission inshore patrol vessels (MMIPVs) was yesterday (Wednesday, 15 June) commissioned at Salisbury Island, the home of Naval Station (NS) Durban.
SAS Sekhukhune (P1571) is currently one of two platforms in the SAN patrol squadron. The other is SAS Makhanda (P1569), the last survivor of what was originally the Minister Class strikecraft, later to become the Warrior Class, which is retained as the class for the new MMIPVs.
The ship’s name is in honour of a paramount chief of the then Pedi Empire in what was north-eastern Transvaal (1814 – 1882).
The Sekhukhune is the first large naval vessel built in South Africa for the SA Navy since 1986 when what was then Sandock Austral started and finished SAS Drakensberg (A301), still in service as the sole SAN supply and replenishment platform.
SAS Sekhukhune is one of three MMIPVs contracted to be built by Damen Shipyards Cape Town (DSCT) under Project Biro.
She will, according to Lance Corporal Paul Mpangala, strengthen the SAN’s inshore patrol capability, conduct mine counter-measures, provide as platform for deep diving operations and training of both sailors and soldiers (in a presumed reference to the SAN’s maritime reaction squadron (MRS) as well as be part and parcel of humanitarian assistance and operations.
The 62 metre long Sekhukhune has a ship’s company numbering 60 commanded by Commander Jabulani Mashamba and Executive Officer (XO) Lieutenant Commander Mapula More.
Main armament is a 20mm Super Sea Rogue and she is said to be able to make 20 knots.